Big B'luru hotels vulnerable to terror attacks: Forces

Big hotels in Bengaluru vulnerable to terror attacks: Army, cops

Counter-terrorism experts said terrorists usually see large hotels as soft, high-profile targets

Representative image. Credit: iStock photo.

Of the 45 high-end hotels in Bengaluru, none of them has the preparedness to counter a terror attack, senior Army and police officials said.

Counter-terrorism experts said terrorists usually see large hotels as soft, high-profile targets. "High-level hotels are an anathema to terrorists because they represent open societies and western ideals," said Brigadier S Bubesh Kumar, director of the Centre for Counter-Terrorism (CCT), speaking on Friday at a workshop on anti-terrorism and security threats to the hospitality sector.

Bhaskar Rao, ADGP, Internal Security Division (ISD) said the workshop was a part of an effort by the ISD to help hotels revamp their security systems. "Following this, we will next move to implement similar protocols at malls and other hospitality places," Rao told DH on the sidelines of the event.

Existing hospitality industry security protocols are on shaky ground, confirmed Vineet Verma, president, World Trade Centre, Bengaluru, who said that existing security measures are either poorly conceived or badly implemented. One example is security checks such as panning a mirror under a vehicle to check for bombs. "An Australian security expert pointed out that India’s uneven roads meant any bombs planted that way would have fallen off," he said.

Brigadier Kumar pointed out that the highest number of terror attacks in 2019 were on hotels, followed next by religious places. However, despite hotels being in the terrorist bullseye, the situation in the Karnataka hospitality trade is one of complacency, if not half-measures, the experts said, adding that the November 2008 attack in Mumbai had not sent up enough red flags for hotels to take note of.

An analysis by Garuda Force, the state’s elite counter-terrorism force which was created in 2012, to serve as the counter-terror first responder for Karnataka, found that many hotels not only lacked security precautions but that most were also disinterested in assessing and fixing security lapses. 

Lt Colonel Rohit Nayak, deputy director (Training) of the CCT explained that hotels did not cooperate with security drills at their sites, did not train staff properly and were lackadaisical about their security protocols. "CCT mock drills are not given due importance by hotels and hotel security personnel do not actually participate in the drills," he said.

He added that hotels do not also limit access to various floors which makes it easier for terrorists to move around, preventing mitigation of collateral damage. "Their CCTV control rooms are not located tactically. In many places, there was no pillar to which we could fix ropes for top-down entry. Hotels are also always hesitant to share their building plans with us and there is no formal procedure to train hotel staff to counter terrorists as they do in Israel," he said.

The findings were accumulated over the course of 120 mock drills conducted by Garuda Force at various locations in the last eight years.